Rhythms of Modern Life: British Prints 1914–1939

November 20 2009 - February 28 2010
Sixth Floor

Rhythms of Modern Life explores the impact of modern artistic movements— especially Italian Futurism—on British printmakers between the outbreak of World War I and the beginning of World War II. The Futurists were fascinated by the accelerated pace of modern life— the dynamism of machines and the sheer exhilaration of speed and motion. The British artist C. R. W. Nevinson was for a time a follower of Futurism, as may be seen in a number of his wartime images. Futurism produced, by reaction, the short-lived but uniquely British style of Vorticism, which stressed not motion but rather geometric abstraction and the hard-edged precision of mechanical forms. This avant-garde style is represented here by the elegantly austere and crisp geometric woodcut abstractions of Edward Wadsworth.

In the 1920s and 30s Claude Flight of London’s Grosvenor School of Modern Art introduced a colorful “Pop” version of modernism, using the new block-print medium of the linoleum cut. Paralleling Art Deco design and streamlining, these color linocuts by Flight, Cyril Powers, Sybil Andrews, and Lill Tschudi focus on the contemporary urban scene, with its anonymous crowds, and on modern diversions: speed trials, sporting events, and other amusements. While the imagery of these linocuts is distinctly Machine Age, they were in fact lovingly hand-crafted, printed by hand-rubbing on thin translucent Japanese papers.

The exhibition is organized according to certain themes that profoundly preoccupied these artists rather than chronologically.

Rhythms of Modern Life: British Prints 1914–1939 is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with original works drawn primarily from the Johanna and Leslie Garfield Collection.

The Wolfsonian–FIU thanks James Woolems and Woolems, Inc.; Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Miami; and Braman Motors for making this exhibition possible.

Rhythms of Modern Life: British Prints 1914–1939
Rhythms of Modern Life: British Prints 1914–1939